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Summer is upon us and that means summer items are now available. As you have no doubt noticed, some items are only available during certain seasons, and if you miss the opportunity to get those items when you can, you are faced with either waiting until next year or finding an online retailer carrying the item.
This summer, consider adding several kiddie pools to your preparedness supplies. These pools are cheap and come in both rigid plastic and inflatable vinyl. Despite the myriad of colors and patterns of these pools, they can serve very important roles in your preparedness plan.
How many of these pools should you keep on hand? Not every type and size of pool is best suited for each of the uses below, though any would probably work if that was all you had. You will need to size the pool to the task for which it is best suited. After reading the 15 preparedness uses for kiddie pools below, you may find yourself wanting more than just a few of these valuable preparedness assets and in varying sizes.
1. Emergency Water Storage
Among the first things you should do after a disaster strikes is to fill up the bathtubs with water (assuming, of course, you are home and there are no other immediate needs). But, why stop there? If you are going to need water, fill up as many containers as possible.
Small kiddie pools can hold between 30 and 250 gallons of water, depending on the size and construction. Larger pools, like those designed for an entire family’s summer fun, can contain between 1000 and 5000 gallons. However, even a small pool holding only 50 gallons can provide enough drinking water for a family of five for 10 days. Three of these pools filled would be an entire month of drinking water.
If storing outside, cover them with a tarp or sheet of plastic to keep out debris and reduce loss to evaporation. No need to worry about treating this water, you can treat it before using it, depending on the use. In addition to drinking, this extra water gives you additional ability to flush toilets, put out fires, and water the garden.
You can avoid your water storage becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes by using Mosquito Dunks.
2. Rainwater Collection, Expedient Cistern
A backyard full of pools during a rainstorm can collect quite a bit of water. If you are looking at an extended period without a working municipal water system, or as a back up to your well water system, being able to replenish your water storage is like having the ability to make gold.
With a little bit of creative ingenuity and some tarps or plastic sheeting, you will be able to maximize the water collection that each pool collects. Like storing water from the tap, this water does not need to be treated until it is time to use it. Unless you are only using to water the garden or if water is extremely scarce, do not collect water from roof runoff, as this water will be highly contaminated, particularly from bird droppings.
Unfortunately, this is the point where I need to remind you to check your local laws about collecting rain water.
If you have the ability to collect water from a spring or running surface water, especially if it is an intermittent water source, you can use the pool for an expedient cistern. By running pipe from one pool to another, you can expand the amount of water stored, only limited by the number of pools and amount of pipe you have on hand.
3. Decontamination Station
This is an often overlooked use for these small pools, though it is an important one. There are two major scenarios where you will need a home decontamination station: pandemics and radioactive matter.
During a pandemic, you can decrease the risk of getting sick from people, who may have come in contact with the virus, by decontaminating them before they enter your home. Likewise, if any of your family is caught in the plume of a radiological dispersal device, they will need to be decontaminated when they get home. The radioactive particles, from dirty bombs or from an actual nuclear detonation, must be scrubbed from the body to stop the irradiation and to prevent inhalation or ingestion of these particles.
When you decontaminate, you need to control the water runoff, so it does not further contaminate people or other portions of your home. Use kiddie pools to collect this water by having the person stand in the middle of the pool as you decontaminate him or her. The contaminated water can then be treated or disposed.
Please note there is much more involved with decontamination procedures but it is beyond the scope of this article.
4. Mixing Bulk Foods
If you like to mix your bulk ingredients before you package them for long-term storage, you can speed up the process by mixing up a pool-sized batch. For example, if you prefer a blend of hard red winter wheat with a little bit of hard white wheat mixed in, you can mix up several buckets worth before sealing. Another example is buying your beans separately and crafting your own blend of mixed beans. Pre-mixing allows you to have what you need when you need it, instead of having to open several or many containers to derive your mix.
When we were setting up our Square Foot Garden beds, a kiddie pool would have been the perfect container for mixing our soil and amendments.
5. Mixing Cement
Speaking of mixes, a kiddie pool makes for an expedient cement mixer. Handy if you happen to have no electrical power, but need to do masonry repairs. This is commonly used in Arizona by landscapers when they have stonework to do, but don’t want to drag along the large mixer when all they need is a small batch. The big drawback to this is the pool is not good for much else once you are finished.
6. Raised Garden Bed
Once the canary in the coal mine keels over, you will probably be looking for quick ways to expand your garden. Using rigid plastic kiddie pools, you may be able to add a raised garden faster than you could work the soil for a new plot, particularly if you live in an area with poor soil or your new plot was formerly occupied by grass. Among other aspects, raised bed gardens are easier for controlling weeds, waterine, and for avoiding grasses sprouting from recently pulled up sod. These also allow you to grow food where there is no dirt.
7. Bathing, Shower and Washing Station
It’s the apocalypse, but does that mean you have to fight the zombie hordes stinking of B.O.? Of course not! Rig up your solar water heater to a shower head, tie up a privacy curtain around the pool, and step in. Ah!
Seriously, though, staying clean is important to staying healthy. Whether your rigged shower is inside or out, the kiddie pool will collect the water for other uses (toilets, fires, garden, and so on). Additionally, the wide pool prevents muddy splashes that occur when you try to shower standing on the ground.
What’s that? No solar water heater or solar powered water pressure? No problem. Heat some water up with your favorite low-tech method and have a bath, or at least a sponge bath.
Lacking a washtub, these small pools can also serve for laundry purposes. Three pools (soap wash, first rinse, second rinse) and some clothesline and you can face the undead in a clean pair of jeans and shirt.
8. Expedient Fish Pool
Without refrigeration, meat spoils rapidly. If you can capture fish from your local fishing spot and move them to your expedient fish pool, you’ll be able to keep them alive and fresher longer. You may even decide to start breeding them (see aquaponics below).
9. Expedient Hydroponics
Hydroponics is an amazing way to grow food without soil. Once into a SHTF scenario, you may be faced with having to grow food everywhere you have space. Expedient hydroponics systems will allow you to grow food where there is no soil.
10. Expedient Aquaponics
If you have the fish in one pool and the plants in another, you might as well connect them into an aquaponics system. The fish water helps fertilize the plants on the hydroponics side, which in turn cleans up the water for the fish. While using pools would not be the best vessel for any of these last three (fish pool, hydroponics, and aquaponics), it will allow you to get things going until you can find more suitable containers.
11. Crib or Baby Pen
Watching a toddler or crawling infant often means you are unable to attend other tasks. An inflatable pool with sides high enough and thick enough to prevent the child from crawling or falling out, and filled with the child’s favorite toys, allows you the ability to take care of other things. This can be quite advantageous when outside of your home, like when the family is doing some “emergency camping,” by preventing the child from tripping and getting hurt on the uneven and rough ground.
12. Staying Cool in Hot Weather
Even with all these other uses, the pool is still a great way to stay cool by using it as a pool. Without electricity for air conditioning, many people will suffer heat-related illnesses. However, a small pool in the shade can provide needed comfort and emergency treatment for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. When you are providing your own medical care, a pool of water can literally be a life saver.
And not only for people, but pets can also overheat. As long as the water isn’t frivolously wasted on the ground (possibly impossible with pets), it can be used for the big three (gardening, fire control, and toilet flushing).
13. Large Solar Still
If you live in an area having a lot of sunshine, you can use two pools to set up a large solar still. Place a small pool concentrically inside a larger pool. You will need to start with clean pools and attach clear plastic over them, so the clean water runs into the larger pool. To prevent having to open up the plastic and pause the distillation process, rig up some tubing for putting dirty water into the inner pool, and getting distilled water from the larger pool. This large solar still is another way you can reclaim water used for washing or making other water safe to drink.
14. Emergency Raft for Gear or Pets During Flood
Back in the mid 1990s, this author lost about half of his possessions in a 500-year flood. The three days of deluge-like rainfall caused the local river to swell in a matter of hours and people awoke to find themselves in the middle of a half-mile wide flooded river.
One of the items people needed were large containers that floated, so they could drag their pets and whatever possessions they could to safety. Small pools would have worked well for this. While they would not make a sea-worthy raft in any sense of the term, they do work well for expedient emergency rafts.
15. Indoor Pet Pooping Station
You have provided for emergency sanitation for you and your family, including toilet paper, buckets, bags, sanitizing and deodorizing chemicals. The pandemic arrives to your city and you seal you and your family into your home, ready to wait it out. Just then, your trusty biological security system, AKA dog, looks up at you and whines to go “out.” Whoops.
Cats are already trained to use a litter box, but what about man’s best friend? Sure, you could put out newspaper, but who wants to deal with that on the kitchen floor when you cannot leave your house? Kiddie pool to the rescue again! With a little forethought, you can set up the pool for a pet relief station. Whether it be newspaper, sand, or even some artificial grass, having a place for your dog to go is important.
It’s not advised to let the waste sit there, but putting the pooping station in the garage is far more convenient than decontaminating the dog every time they go outside. Combining a small pool with one of those “Diaper Genies” is only one way to control pet mess and odors.
Rigid Plastic or Inflatable Vinyl?
Kiddie pools come in either rigid plastic or inflatable vinyl and, of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. It is likely you will want a few of each, depending on how you plan to use them.
Rigid pools are harder to store, but generally easier to put into use. They maintain their shape and they nest together, meaning you can stack them like measuring cups, allowing you to store a large number of them in the same footprint that one pool takes. They are less susceptible to damage, but more difficult to repair once a hole or crack appears.
Inflatable pools are easier to store, as you can keep them in their small boxes until needed, and refold when finished. This storage convenience comes at a price, as they require more resources to put into use. Unless it is a very small inflatable pool, you will need an air pump. Manual pumps will work, but electrical pumps are the quickest, although, it is likely the power grid will be down when you need to employ them. There are battery-operated air pumps, though without a way to recharge them, using them to inflate a pool may not be the best use for your batteries.
Inflatable pools are also more prone to puncture. These can be patched with a vinyl patch kit, and you will need to re-inflate them once the repair is complete. Many inflatable pools have separate chambers, or rings, which will help prevent a total loss if using to store water.
There are also larger pools, the above ground family sized pools, that have a plastic frame and do not require inflating. This material is less prone to puncture, but these types of pools are large and may be more difficult to set up and take down. However, if you had warning of a pending disaster, these would be space-efficient for water storage.
Though it’s clear they have been an overlooked preparedness item, given the many ways you can use kiddie pools, be sure to stock up on these the next time you head to your local big box store.